PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Facing a decline in qualified applicants for the city’s police academy, the Providence Police Department for the first time in its history will start considering applications from officers at other departments, according to Col. Hugh Clements, the city’s outgoing police chief.

The department has historically been strict about its policy to only employ police officers who graduate from the Providence Police training academy, shutting out transfers from other departments.

“We were rigid on that,” Clements said. “We’re a different type of community, we have a different philosophy of policing.”

But the academy had trouble recruiting for its most recent class set to begin training in March, Clements said in an interview Wednesday.

“For the first time ever in Rhode Island, we’ve seen a difficulty in recruiting,” Clements said. “That never was the case in the Northeast prior to the last couple years. This year we finally felt that crunch.”

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Previous academies have historically drawn between 2,000 and 3,000 applicants, Clements said, while the most recent academy drew 999 applications.

“There are young men and women that are less inclined to take on this endeavor,” Clements said.

While the academy is authorized in the most recent city budget to train and hire 50 new police officers, Clements said it’s unlikely they will have 50 candidates who qualify after the rigorous screening process is complete. The process includes physical fitness, medical and psychological testing in addition to a written exam, interviews and background checks.

“I anticipate we will not get 50 qualified, good candidates from the pool that we have presently before us,” Clements said. “The time has come for Providence to explore lateral transfers.”

While the Providence Police Department has its own academy that trains its officers, every other municipality in the state sends its trainees to the R.I. Municipal Police Training Academy, while state troopers are trained in the R.I. State Police Training Academy.

Police officers who graduated from the municipal academy have been allowed to apply to transfer between departments, but not to Providence.

Providence will now accept transfer applications from officers who attended either of those other two academies, Clements said. They are not currently considering candidates from out-of-state departments.

The transfers will need to be reviewed by Rhode Island Police Officers Commission of Standards and Training (POST Commission), which already reviews transfers between other departments in the state.

Clements said any officers hired from other departments will likely need to attend a “mini-academy” for several weeks of training to learn the Providence style of policing.

The most recent class of Providence police recruits graduated in November 2021 with 49 new officers.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.